A final between two of the world’s top three players, a schedule that did not veer too far off course because of the rain and attendance figures comparable to those of the last women’s event of Rogers Cup presented by National Bank. Tournament director Eugène Lapierre was a happy man as he wrapped up the 2018 edition.
It may not have broken the record set in 2008 when 175 000 fans attended the women’s event, but the 2018 Rogers Cup still welcomed nearly 170 000 ticket holders—a figure that continues to place the tournament among the WTA’s leading events.
Even so, Eugène Lapierre is not resting on his laurels. With the high quality of the women’s game and outstanding fan experience off the courts, Rogers Cup still has room to improve. He believes that the arrival of new superstars on the WTA Tour will effect change.
“We did set the attendance record at a one-week women’s tennis tournament, but, at the end of the day, on a personal level, I’d like to see us do better,” affirmed Lapierre when discussing the tournament results on Sunday afternoon. “In this particular case, what we need to look at is an issue related to celebrity. Some years, the women’s event does better than the men’s, and I feel like there’s a transformation happening in women’s tennis. We’re going to see new stars with strong personalities.”
“If we discover new players who can take up the torch from the Williams sisters and Maria Sharapova, for example, the Tour will thrive. The 1990s were about Steffi Graf, Monica Seles and the Williams. Martina Navratilova was still competing. Amélie Mauresmo and Mary Pierce were out there. Every player in the Top 10 had an incredible story. But you can’t control that—it’s not something you can manufacture. We have to let the sport evolve on its own.
Still, Lapierre hesitates to compare the WTA’s popularity with the ATP’s, especially since the organizations do not rely on the same resources.
“They invest similar efforts but they’re different tours. And they certainly don’t have the same means,” he explained. “In terms of broadcasting rights, the WTA implemented a system similar to the ATP’s only three years ago. With visibility, the more the players are seen, the more famous they become. The WTA is working to sell women’s tennis around the world.”
Canadian women’s tennis is also doing well. This week at Rogers Cup presented by National Bank, 11 Canadians competed at IGA Stadium. Rebecca Marino, Gabriela Dabrowski, Carson Branstine,
Leylah Annie Fernandez, Katherine Sebov, Isabelle Boulais, Catherine Leduc and Alexandra Vagramov all played in the qualifying event, and Françoise Abanda, Eugenie Bouchard and Carol Zhao were awarded wildcards into the main draw.
The results may not be shattering records but a player like Eugenie Bouchard remains a crowd favourite despite dropping out of the Top 100. According to Lapierre, her presence in Montréal—like that of her fellow Canadians—has an instant positive impact of Canadian tennis.
“We have some good prospects coming up but we need to work on it,” he added.” To me, it’s starting almost from the ground up. That’s why I say it’s so important to have these stars who can attract young girls. And it goes pretty quick when you see real talent at 10, 11 or 12 years old. It doesn’t take much time and suddenly they’re 16 or 17 years old like Bianca Andreescu. It’s a concern but not only on the women’s side. Our young kids are doing very well but who’s coming up? Canada is a small country in terms of tennis players, far from the numbers in Europe or South America or even in the United States. We’ve been doing fairly well all things considered but we need to continue.